Opening Doors for New Americans since 1882
December 3, 2014
The National Visa Center (NVC) has changed the requirements regarding supporting documentation submitted in immigrant visa applications. As of November 12, 2014, the NVC has begun accepting photocopies of civil documents, rather than requiring originals.
In cases where a foreign national wishes to use consular processing - that is, obtain an immigrant visa (IV) from abroad - the NVC acts as an intermediary between the U. S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the U.S. consulate. This is an alternative to the adjustment-of-status process, which is used when an individual can finalize the green card case from within the United States. For a consular processing filing, once the USCIS approves the family- or employment-based petition, the case is forwarded to the NVC. The NVC collects the IV application fees, the required forms, and all supporting documents. Once the package is deemed complete, the application packet is forwarded to the appropriate consulate and the case is scheduled for an immigrant visa interview abroad.
IV cases typically must include a variety of supporting documents, such as birth and marriage certificates, police certificates, divorce decrees, and certificates of non-availability (of birth certificates). For a number of years, the NVC required applicants using consular processing to submit all supporting documents in the original. These documents were then forwarded to the appropriate consulate, along with the completed visa application.
There is a natural reluctance to transmit these civil documents to the NVC in the original. Some of these documents are quite old and fragile, and there is the risk that a document may be lost at some point during the application process. There can also be problems when a particular document, such as a birth certificate proving parentage, is needed for more than one case at the same time, or for other identity purposes.
Under the new procedure, the NVC no longer collects original supporting documents. Depending upon the systems in place at the consulate conducting the visa interview, individuals are instructed to either submit the documents electronically, or to transmit copies by mail. Each applicant, however, still needs to bring the original documents to the visa interview for review by the consular officer.
The use of copies is limited to civil documents. In cases where it is necessary to submit an affidavit of support (I-864 form), originals are required. The affidavit of support is not a civil document; rather, it is an immigration form used primarily, but not exclusively, in family-based cases to show a sponsor's financial ability to support the foreign national beneficiary.